Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The One Cosmos Innerview: A Shocking True-to-Wife Story!

WILL: For our very first One Cosmos Interview, I'd like to welcome none other than Mrs. Leslie Godwin, spouse of and life-partner to Bob, creator of the One Cosmos blog. Welcome, Leslie!

LESLIE: Thank you, Will.

WILL: For those O.C. readers who may not know, Leslie is the author of the book From Burned Out To Fired Up: A Woman's Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning In Life and Work. She is also a therapist and a life-transition coach. I encourage everyone to check out Leslie's web page. As a disclaimer, I should let everyone know that Leslie gave me some invaluable professional advice regarding a recent project of mine, so count me as an unabashed Leslie G. fan. Leslie, I'd like to discuss your book and your professional life, but first a few questions about which everyone is probably curious - when and how did you first meet Bob?

LESLIE: Bob and I met in school in 1983, California Graduate School in Westwood, CA -- a private psychology graduate school near UCLA that focuses on those going into private practice as opposed to research or teaching. He was studying for his Ph.D. and I was in the Master's program.

WILL: Are you originally from southern California?

LESLIE: No, I'm from New York -- Forest Hills, Queens then Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County. When I met Bob, I had just moved out to Los Angeles from New College in Sarasota, Florida, via Davidson College in North Carolina and auto mechanic school in Pennsylvania. I had done quite a bit of traveling, unlike --

WILL: Wait, could we back up for just a moment? You were in auto mechanic school? You were considering being a car mechanic?

LESLIE: I had no idea what I wanted to do when I fled Davidson College after a little over a year of being the token Yankee. My dad suggested learning about repairing planes. I guess that gave me the idea to investigate fixing cars. But it's hard to say how it all worked out to get my degree from tech school. But I absolutely loved it. After feeling lost and homesick at a very challenging liberal arts program, learning how to fix things and being around non-Ivy League types was just what I needed. I even wrote a manual for my friends' Mustang once I got to New College. Nowadays, it would have been a "Dummies' Guide" sort of thing.

WILL: Well, I had no idea you had that kind of talent. That's impressive and revealing. But okay, so you met Bob in graduate school . . .

LESLIE: We met in group therapy actually.

WILL: Group therapy? Not exactly the White Cliffs of Dover, but...

LESLIE: Well, the school had a good scam going. The two owners ran group therapy sessions that were mandatory for every student for a full year. They were slightly less than professional as group leaders, and if you missed a "class" you had to make it up in a private psychotherapy session ... and pay their full fee for that! It was borderline unethical, but thanks to Dr. Packer, Bob and I met.

WILL: So... was it, you know... love at first sight?

LESLIE: Not unless you think of revulsion being the flip side of the same coin as love.


WILL: (laughing) Yes, please go on...

LESLIE: Well, on the first day of the new term, Bob walked in to group therapy with his earpiece on, listening to a Dodger game on the radio...

WILL: Yeah, he's big on the baseball metaphors...

LESLIE: ... and I thought he was incredibly arrogant that and he was setting himself apart from the group I had already bonded with for one trimester before he strolled in... After group, I went out to dinner with my fiance, Ricardo. He couldn't believe how agitated I was. Poor Ricardo...

WILL: "Ricardo". One doesn't meet a lot of Ricardos . . .

LESLIE: He was my Ricardo. I was his Lucy... I must have bored him to death venting about this new guy in group who I just couldn't stand. I remember doing a lot of -- what's the word for audible, irritated exhaling? I went on for a while about how aggravating the whole group was going to be now that Bob was in it for the next seven months.

WILL: So what happened with you and Ricardo?

LESLIE: He didn't pay enough attention to me. Of course, that's not what I told HIM.

WILL: So splitsville?

LESLIE: Wasn't easy. I suffered from middle-of-the-night panic attacks after I broke up with Ricardo.

WILL: Understood.

LESLIE: Bob was very sympathetic at this time. He gave me his phone number at work -- he worked the graveyard shift at a grocery store so I wouldn't be waking him -- and said I could call if I needed to talk to someone. It sounds like a pickup line as I talk about it now... if you want to pick up a neurotic, panicky 23 year old. But looking back, I can see that this is when I saw the other side of Bob. Isn't that a Dylan album?

WILL: Yeah, it's titled Another Side Of -

LESLIE: I know what it's titled, Will. Anyway, Bob was sensitive, empathic, and genuinely wanted to help --

WILL: ... I think "Chimes of Freedom Flashing" is on it...

LESLIE: -- and I didn't see the potential for romance until a crisis occurred.

WILL: What was that?

LESLIE: My best friend from college had just been killed while bicycling at night after class.

WILL: That's awful.

LESLIE: Mauricio was so unusual. I have never met someone so comfortable with himself. He exuded joy. A good counterpoint for me, exuding angst. Well, Bob and I walked around Westwood for over an hour talking. It really helped. Shortly after that, he invited me to hang out at the beach one evening before he had to work and we talked some more. It was as if his spirit was hidden at first, then he opened up a bit. And finally, I got to experience the real Bob.

WILL: And the Fateful First Date?

LESLIE: Bob invited me to a Big Joe Turner show at a nearby club, Madame Wong's West.

WILL: Yeah, that works.

LESLIE: As soon as we got there and parked, I locked the keys in my car.

WILL: That's something I'd do!

LESLIE: Really?

WILL: Bank on it.

LESLIE: Well, I was very impressed that Bob didn't get irritated or think I was a knucklehead. After the show, we sat out by the pool at my aunt's guesthouse where I was living and talked til 2 am? 4 am?

WILL: Definitely an am.

LESLIE: Let's just say It was very magical and I've been hypnotized ever since.

WILL: I think that under questioning, Bob would confess to the same. In fact, I can recall some One Cosmos posts that were Shakespeare sonnet-like in their profession of love and the holiness of the marital union, and I believe your name came up in conjunction with them --

LESLIE: Well, never has a husband put up with a messy house, a lack of homecooked meals, and a wife who needs to sleep late every morning because the puppy and toddler conspire to keep her up off and on every night with more grace and kindness...

WILL: ... You were going to say?

LESLIE: Well... I am sure Bob didn't know what he was getting into.

WILL: Well, what husband does? Or wife for that matter?

LESLIE: Or parent, now that you mention it. You should know I refer to the time that followed the honeymoon period as the "Taming of the Shrew."

WILL: Just how shrew-ish was Bob?


LESLIE: Will, I'm sure you realized I was referring to myself as the shrew.

(to be con't)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just Passin' Through: Coordinates and Gaps in the Hyperdimensional Godhead

If we extend our Matterhorn analogy and think of God, or the Absolute, as a sort of hyperdimensional mountain range, what does that imply for human beings?

I don't know. I'm thinking about it.

Let's see. Perhaps we can compare the situation to dogs and people. Obviously, a human being has many "dimensions," so to speak, that a dog doesn't. So how is a dog supposed to understand a human? He can't. Not really. Or just a very narrow "frequency" out of the totality. I remember about 15 years ago, when we were training our first dog. The big breakthrough occurred when the trainer explained that we might think of the dog as a dog, but she doesn't think of us as human. In order to get into her world, you have to think like a dog. Dogs have an elaborate nonverbal language that you have to tap into. Basically, you want them to consider you the alpha dog.

But that analogy can't be quite right, because although dogs aren't made in the image of man, nine out of ten sages agree that man is made in the image of God. If this is correct, then a certain kind of applied introspection can lead to accurate intuitions about God, just as knowledge of God can lead to wisdom and self-understanding.

Interestingly, Orthodox Christianity emphasizes this two-way movement, with Athanasius of Alexandria's formula that "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." Therefore, only God's kenosis, or self-emptying, makes possible theosis, or union with God. As such -- since we are the image and likeness -- our own self-emptying would apparently be a prerequisite for theosis. And this is indeed what all mystical paths emphasize in one form or another, the three part process of purgation/purification, illumination, and union -- which has certain shared points of reference to the aspiration-rejection-surrender theme we discussed a couple of weeks ago.

Last week I mentioned that a photograph, painting, or any perception at all is actually a geometrical transformation that maintains certain coordinates and dimensions while distorting others. For example, this is why we can all recognize the simple "have a nice day" smiley face as a smiling face. You can transform a human face with just a couple of dots and a semi-circle and still recognize a face (even infants can do this). It is also why we can view a two-dimensional movie and experience it as three-dimensional. We subconsciously employ certain coordinates, or "invariants," to project the missing dimension.

In linguistics -- I think I'm more or less right about this, but I could be making this up -- a declension occurs when a more general term is modified to become a particular case. In a certain sense, it means that potentiality is reduced to actuality. I believe we can see that scripture operates in the same way, in that the Absolute in itself can have no interlocutor, no mediator, no middle term, not even a "here" and "there" -- "for no man shall see me and live" (Rabbi Mo).

To a certain extent, this accounts for the inevitable "incoherence" of religion, which cannot not be. The reason is that scripture is a description -- a declension -- expressed in our terms of something that vastly exceeds the terms of expression. For example, imagine a flat sheet of paper, where two-dimensional beings live. None of them knows anything about the third dimension. Now imagine your hand moving through the sheet of paper. What would that look like to the two-dimensional beings? First of all, they wouldn't see a hand. First they might see a point -- the tip of a finger -- expanding into a circle. Eventually they would see five points expanding into separate circles. But then those circles would merge and blend into one larger oval (the palm), followed by a smaller circle at the wrist. And then everything would disappear as the arm moved through.

Now, if God is a hyperdimensional object (or subject-object), perhaps we need to take a lesson from this. Supposing that for the flatlanders, the Mysterious Arm is God. But their description of the arm would be very distorted. In fact, they would experience what is actually a singular object in space as a series of events playing out in time. Could it be therefore that we experience God in the same way -- as the "playing out in time" of what is unified and whole on a higher dimension?

"I am Alpha and Omega." "Before the world was, I AM." "When He prepared the heavens, I was there." "Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning, for the one who stands at the beginning will know the end." "Blessed is the one who comes into being before he came into being" (Gospel of Thomas), "Lucky is the blind man who can feel a woman's wrist and learn everything he needs to know about the rest of her" (Gospel of Ray Charles).

Bearing in mind what we said above about transformation, perception, coordinates, and invariance, Schuon writes that "Religious formulations limit themselves to enunciating points of reference without being too concerned with outward coherence, although from another point of view, the mythic and symbolic image always evokes a profound and lived reality" [i.e., something higher than that which maps it]. For example, "the history of Adam and Eve may clash with a certain need for logic, but we bear it deeply within ourselves, and it is this inherence of the sacred image which on the one hand justifies it and on the other explains a relatively easy adherence to it."

Thus, "it is precisely the surface contradictions, the fissures so to speak which, by a crowning paradox, offer the decisive points of reference for the discovery of the metaphysical homogeneity of doctrines or symbols that are at first sight disparate."

What is Schuon saying? That the gaps and fissures in scripure are more like points of entry which testify to its higher dimensional reality -- just as the five fingers passing through flatland testify to the existence of the hand. But in Flatland, there would undoubtedly be philosophers and skeptics who would look at the same data and conclude that the gaps were evidence of incoherence, not coherence. They literally could not "see the big pitcher," which is to say, Randy Johnson's left arm passing through Flatbush on the way to Manhattan.

The point is this. Being that we are in the image of God, "the sacred truth is part of our soul." Therefore, to begin to comprehend it, you must see how the truths embedded in scripture are a transformation of your own self. Or, you might say that revelation is a memo from your higher (dimensional) self to your lower self. And this is why it is such a -- I won't say "sin," but a shame -- to seek only a literal understanding of scripture, thereby interpreting it in terms of the lowest human way of knowing it. In other words, in doing this, you eliminate all of the higher dimensions and deeper connections. And we're back to dogs, Beethoven, and tone-deaf atheists.

For example, take one of the many works of Bach which stand as an eternal monument to the transdimensional God. Even an atheist can appreciate this music on his own level. But what will specifically be denied him -- or what he denies himself -- is the Real Presence from which the music flows and to which it stands as testimony. But can a single work of Back possibly encapsulate that object? Yes and no. If he were alive today, he would still be cranking out his aural monuments to divinity, since a higher dimension cannot be exhausted in a lower one. There is literally no end to the forms which a higher dimension can take in a lower one. And yet, they are all one. And who has the musical vision to "integrate" all of the musical gaps between Bach's indivdual works, and apprehend the higher dimensional unity from which they flow?

I'm guessing that there's some mystico-musically gifted person out there who has done it. In a way, this is again what Joyce was attempting in Finnegans Wake: to describe the single hyperdimensional object as it passes through our world as the experience of "history." Joyce simply took seriously the idea that "time is the moving image of eternity." And if that's true, then every passing moment is a unique and priceless snapshot of the eternal Magic Mountain.

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that could be written. --John 21:25

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Shedding a Little Obscurity on the Dazzlingly Self-Evident

In the few moments I have here, I wanted to say something about the debate last week between Christopher Hitchens and the Christian theologian Mark Roberts on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. I predicted that it wouldn't go well for the theist, being that standard-issue logic is going to trump exoteric religion every time. This hardly means that exoteric religion is "wrong," only that it has no merely logical way to defend itself against charges of internal inconsistency.

It goes without saying that many aspects of religion would appear to defy conventional logic. On their own plane they are true, but when applied to another plane they don't so much become false as absurd. Thus, any reasonably intelligent person -- and Hitchens is an unreasonably intelligent person -- can pretty much pick apart exoteric religion if they are so inclined. A child can do it, really. I myself used to do it all the time. I was one of those people who welcomed the door-to-door Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons into my home just to mess with their heads.

The "content" of science is the relationship between our senses and the external world. But the content of religion is the relationship between God and man. If you treat the one like the other and expect religion to be bound by the same kind of logical rigor as science, you are bound to be confused. Pursuing this fruitless line of inquiry falls under the heading of using one's intelligence for a stupid end. Much finer and more subtle minds than Christopher Hitchens have always been well aware of the contradictions and inconsistencies, and had no difficulty reconciling them in the appropriate way.

The relationship between God and man is, among other things, interior, protean, and multiple. In other words, there are many ways to form a relationship with God, which, in a way, is not that different from the diverse ways we can form a relationship to the external world. After all, we can see it, smell it, touch it, taste it, hear it, etc. Just so, there are diverse ways we may know God, only one of which is through revelation. Or, to put it another way, God is only known through revelation, bearing in mind that revelation does not consist only of certain sacred texts. To cite one obvious example, the uncreated intellect that is able to comprehend the truth of revelation (or the truth of anything, really) is as much a revelation -- more so, in fact -- than revelation itself. They are simply two sides of the same Word that courses through the arteries of being.

I only caught a few minutes of the debate, but one of the predictable problems was that the two men were operating on entirely different planes. The theologian understood God and religion in one way, while Hitchens (dis)understood them in an different way. In a word, the two were using entirely different paradigms, or operating systems, to try to apprehend the phenomena under scrutiny. The same thing can and does happen in fields other than religion.

To cite one example that comes readily to mind since it pertains to my own field of psychology, a psychoanalyst and a behaviorist will have virtually nothing to debate, since their paradigms, and the assumptions underlying them, are so radically different. The psychoanalyst believes that the source of our emotional pain and conflict is unconscious -- that there is an "unthought known" realm of consciousness "beneath" the ego, which shapes and directs conscious thought and behavior. Various schools of psychoanalysis might even be compared to different religions, in that they all try to map this invisible domain in different ways -- there are Freudians, Kleinians, Kohutians, Jungians, and many others.

If one were so inclined, one could easily dismiss psychoanalysis based merely on the fact that the people who posit this thing called the "unconscious" cannot even agree amongst themselves on its characteristics, and often contradict one another. However, this would be very short-sighted, since the the unconscious -- like God -- is "interior, protean, and multiple." By its very nature, people are going to have different views and theories of it, since it is subjective and holographic, not objective and atomistic. Just because people cannot agree on its exact nature, does not mean that it does not exist. If we were to use the same criteria with regard to quantum physics, we would have to say that the subatomic realm doesn't exist either, since there are so many different models and theories pertaining to it, and no existing way to even harmonize quantum and relativity theories (i.e., the macro and the micro realms).

So psychoanalysts cannot agree on the nature of psychic reality. Comes now the behaviorist, who says that the unconscious doesn't exist at all. In fact, even consciousness is a dubious construct. Rather, there is only observable behavior. Mental illness is really just painful or dysfunctional behavior. Change the behavior and you change the man. End of issue.

Right away, you can see that the atheist Hitchens debating the theist Roberts is exactly like a behaviorist debating a psychoanalyst. In fact, I remember having such a debate with an atheist during my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital around 20 years ago. Naturally I won the debate, although the behaviorist had no way of knowing it, since his mind was limited to the plane of observable behavior. How can he have any knowledge of that which he a priori excludes? Again, it is like the dog who cannot understand Beethoven or the atheist who cannot understand religion. Same sensory apparatus, different planes.

Now, Schuon makes an excellent point in this regard, writing that "The man who rejects religion because, if taken literally, it sometimes seems absurd -- ... such a man does not know the one essential thing, despite the logic of his reaction: namely, that the imagery, contradictory though it may be at first sight, nonetheless conveys data that in the final analysis are coherent and even dazzlingly evident for those who are capable of having a presentiment of them or of grasping them."

Thus, religion can be simultaneously "illogical" and nevertheless "dazzlingly evident." How can this be? First of all, one must resist the temptation to resolve the contradictions within religion on a lower plane than that from which they arise. Again, pointing out apparent inconsistencies is so easy that a 13 year old can do it, but to the extent that you win this kind of argument, you lose.

Rather, any inconsistencies must be resolved on a higher plane, the plane of esoterism. Rather than trying to comprehend the center from the periphery, or the principle from its manifestation, this approach tries to understand the periphery from the center -- the center being the Absolute, or God. The other day we used the analogy of people taking photographs of the Matterhorn. Each photo will necessarily be a little different, despite the fact that there is only one Matterhorn (and one Schuon standing in front of it... funny, he doesn't strike me as the sort of person who would have been interested in visiting Disneyland).

The physicist David Bohm used an even better analogy. Imagine a rectangular fish tank with a fish swimming around in it. There are two video cameras trained on the tank at right angles to one another. The resulting images are projected on to two separate video monitors in a different room. Looking at the two monitors, one would see what looks like two different fish. Nevertheless, there would appear to be some correlation between their movements. What might not occur to the person is that the images on the screens are two-dimensional projections of a three-dimensional reality; while they appear separate, they are in fact unified at a higher dimension.

This is precisely how I would understand O, which revelation is here to illuminate -- dazzlingly so, I might add. For example, scripture is a lower dimensional representation of a reality with more dimensions than three or four. Two "four dimensional" stories can easily be reconciled in five dimensions. And before you dismiss this as speculative or overly abstract, I would redirect your attention to the unconscious and to the dream, which are also hyperdimensional and operate free of the demands of aristotelian logic. (See for example here, here, and here.)

Well, that's about all I have time for now. For a while, you can probably expect my posts to appear a bit later in the day, although today I surprised myself and got off a blast by the usual time.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ought World, Political Religions, and the Bridge to Nowhere

Maybe I'll just stop posting on weekends. There's a lot less traffic on weekends anyway. One of the reasons I hesitated to do so in the past was that I didn't want to break the spell. It had begun to feel as if the daily posting were a somewhat artificial state, and that if it snapped, that would be the end of it. Sort of like a hitting streak in baseball, or a no-hitter. When it is evident by the fourth inning or so that a pitcher is working on a no-hitter, his teammates won't go near him. Nobody will talk to him, touch him, or even make eye contact. Or if they do, they certainly won't mention the no-hitter. Nobody wants to break The Spell.

It reminds me of how bands back in the 1960s had to produce three or four albums every year, plus a new single every couple of months, plus maybe a Christmas album. Now it's not unusual for an artist to go five years without an album, but they're not nearly as good. Although it doesn't seem conducive to "art," there's something about the daily grind that causes one to rise to the occasion, to reach down for something you otherwise wouldn't have known existed (assuming there's something there to begin with). Under these "adverse" conditions, someone like Paul McCartney produced more great music in a given year -- say, 1965 or 1966 -- than he did in the 37 from 1970 to today. The same goes for the Rolling Stones, who cranked out one masterpiece after another from 1964-1972, then essentially zilch, artistically speaking.

Off hand, I can only think of a couple of folks from that era who escaped the artistic decline that resulted from independence of the pressure to produce so much new material, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. Dylan very consciously and publicly extricated himself from the "star maker machinery" in 1966, while Morrison did so in about 1974. Each went into a semi-retirement that lasted several years before they returned with a very different attitude about their music and their audience. They reconciled themselves to producing music for the marketplace, but entirely on their own terms.

Anyway, ever since I took a day off from posting last week, I feel as if the spell has been broken. I suppose it's like sinnin'. The first time is hard, but after that, it's easy. This morning I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn't want to face The Puppy. As I said, it's not her fault. It's just that I'd gotten so accustomed to that absolutely silent space in the morning, and now it's gone. Only now do I realize how important it had become to me.

It probably sounds petulant or something (no pun intended there), but it's not. I either have to wait until she matures a bit and sleeps longer -- which won't be too much longer -- or work out some kind of a new routine.

*****

I came across a great quote that summarizes how the leftist body snatchers have, like a cancer, insinuated themselves into virtually every aspect of society. It's very much like guerilla warfare, where you can't just drop a bomb on the enemy without causing a lot of collateral damage. It's the same with the left. You can't just bulldoze our major universities, media outlets, and other institutions. If you metaphorically blow up the Princeton Middle East Studies Department, you might hurt Bernard Lewis.

Here's the quote. It's from a book entitled The Third Reich: A New History, which analyzes fascism as a modern political religion. It has to do with the gradual moral transformation that fascists attempted to bring about, which he compares to rebuilding a railway bridge:

"Engineers could not simply demolish an existing structure, because of the impact on rail traffic. Instead, they slowly renewed each bolt, girder and rail, work which hardly caused passengers to glance up from their newspapers. However, one day, they would realize that the old bridge had gone and a gleaming new structure stood in its stead."

In America, this construction project has advanced so far, that the Orwellian engineers responsible for bringing it about accuse those of us who notice the new bridge of being "radicals" or extremists. For example, if you simply want to preserve the Judeo-Christian heritage of the country -- the old bridge, which worked so well for so long -- you're an extremist. If you don't want unelected judges to impose their bizarre definition of marriage, you're an extremist. If you believe that government should not be able to discriminate on the basis of race, you're an extremist. If you think there's nothing in the constitution that grants the right to kill the unborn, you're an extremist. Etc.

It is not that the irreligious have replaced the religious. Hardly. Rather, we are dealing with a new secular religion, or religious fervor in the absence of its appropriate object. Which is why you will have noticed that the left is in a perpetual state of emotional fervor. It's not so much that they suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. That we all know. Rather, they suffer from a religious neurosis that requires an easily recognizable "devil" for its iconography. If it weren't Bush, it would be someone else. For most of the international left, it is Israel.

Here's how it happened in Germany, and -- at risk of evoking Godwin's Law -- it sounds very much like the evolution of our own fascist left over the past couple of decades:

"Reality was violently adjusted to suit a theoretical ought-world." "A dreadful mass sentimentality, compounded of anger, fear, resentment and self-pity, replaced the customary politics of decency, pragmatism, property and reason.... Belief, faith, feeling and obedience to instinct routed debate, scepticism and compromise. People voluntarily surrendered to group or herd emotions, some of a notoriously nasty kind. Among committed believers, a mythic world of eternal spring, heroes, demons, fire and sword -- in a word, a fantasy world of the nursery -- displaced reality." Or invaded it, with crude images of Jews, capitalists, and others "populating the imagination."

"This was children's politics for grown-ups, bored and frustrated with the prosaic tenor of post-war liberal democracy, and hence receptive to heroic gestures and politics as a form of theatrical stunt, even at the expense of their personal freedom." The "thinkers" of this movement "treated ideas seriously, rather than something secondary to 'facts'," and "on closer scrutiny explained rather little." He quotes Bertrand Russell, who observed that to understand this new leftist mentality, "it is not sufficient to know the facts; it is also necessary to enter with sympathy or imagination into a new spirit."

The new political religions are a "by-product of the absence of religion," in which "ideologies akin to Christian heresies of redemption in the here and now" fuse "with post-Enlightenment doctrines of social transformation" and create a "church-state" or a state "counter-church with its own intolerant dogma, preachers, sacred rites and lofty idioms that [offer] total explanations of the past, present and future, while demanding unwavering dedication from its adherents."

When I hear Al Gore, I am reminded of another quote from this book: "The people dream, and a soothsayer tells them what they are dreaming."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Turn Off Your Mind, Relax and Float Upstream

To remind you all, here's the little problem I'm having. If I were Lileks, I could turn it into an interesting post, but I won't even try. Normally I get up at about 5:00. That's been my secret to writing these posts for the past year or more. By waking up before everyone else, when the house is dark and silent, before the chaos starts, I find that I can just free-associate without any kind of pre-planned idea of what to write about. This period of timelessness, or temporal dilation, is absolutely critical to my omission. In a way, it's been my replacement for meditation -- which, by the way, I just started doing again yesterday. More on which below, I suppose.

At first, I tried to write my posts during the day, but that was unworkable. There's just too much going on. Plus, I began to think about it beforehand, so it dominated too much of my time. So the early morning writing proved to be ideal. It's something I never imagined I could even do, because I was never a morning person before. Nor a writer, for that matter.

As it is, I can hardly believe I was able to keep it up for so long, since we hope Future leader will make it until 7:00, but that doesn't always happen. So I often have to stop what I'm doing and feed and entertain him at the same time I'm trying to finish a post. On a good day, I would have a little window of two hours to get up, check my blood, eat something if my blood sugar is low, make some coffee, look at my email, and check out a few favorite websites while my brain comes on line -- e.g., American Thinker, Dr. Sanity, Powerline, LGF, Newsbusters -- just to get a rough idea of what's going on with the cosmic weather.

It's amazing how one little puppy can alter the delicate balance of the cosmos. Now I can't sneak out of bed without waking her up. And she doesn't just "wake up." Rather, like all puppies, she's either dead asleep or romping around like a maniac. First I have to let her out and try to get her to pee. No telling how long that might take. Then I have to feed her. Back outside to let her do her business again. Something about that particular business transaction gets her very excited, so she dashes back in the house as if it's chasing after her.

So now it's back to my office, but first we have to make it past Future Leader's room with Coondog tapping her feet on the wooden floor. Now we're in the office, where the last thing she wants to do is curl into a ball and settle down. Rather, they're like kittens at this age. She wants to play with every wire, every loose scrap of paper, every book. I give her toys to play with or something to chew on, but those only keep her occupied for so long.

Anyway, you get the picture. My entire seekosystem has been disrupted. Here's a fine example. Right now it's 5:36. I actually made it this far without Coondog waking up! But now I hear Future Leader stirring. There's no way he can get up this early. What to do? I'm trying to figure it out right now. He's sort of babbling. If that goes on long, it'll wake the puppy. Do I go in and try to settle him? Or do I let it go, at risk of waking her up?

I'm going in. Be right back.

"Baba Daddy?" There's another existential choice that no man should have to face at this hour. There's a school of thought that says if you give it to him, you just reinforce the early waking. But I tossed one in the crib like a hand grenade and ran out. Maybe that'll settle him for a bit longer.

I'm lucky. It's only 5:43, and the dog is still asleep.

This should be a temporary situation. We got the puppy at eight weeks. She's now, what, going on eleven weeks? I forgot the exact figure, but Mrs. G said that it won't be too many more weeks before her sleeping patterns are more like an adult dog, which will solve my immediate problem and restore some order to the cosmos.

Did I mention that I'm not a very fast or efficient typist? I just never learned. I took a typing class back in my sophomore year of high school, but I just blew it off. I mean, I went to classes, but I didn't even try to learn how to type without looking. I think I got a D the first semester and an F the second semester. The whole thing about typing struck me as kind of... I don't know, gay, I suppose. We didn't use that word, but there is no question that it didn't fall into the masculine sphere, and insecure adolescent boys have a compulsive need to devalue anything vaguely feminine. At least they did back then.

That's the actual source of so-called "homophobia." Ironically, while I suppose that some cases of male homosexuality may have genetic roots, I don't think there's any question that our ambivalence about homosexuality is genetic. There is a kind of more or less benign "homophobia" that reinforces sexual identity and guides the otherwise fluid hypersexuality of adolescents down the appropriate channel. This is not to excuse it, any more than one "excuses" other genetically based behaviors such as jealousy. Rather, it just is. Nor is it to ever excuse violent or abusive acting out -- even though that is sometimes going to happen, just as it is inevitable that jealous lovers are occasionally going to go Othello. You could make jealousy a "hate crime" (or "love crime"), but it wouldn't have any effect on the crazies.

Wait. Now I hear the puppy. Better let her out. 6:02. She pees without too much of a drawn out ritual. Excellent.

Back in the house. I'm looking for a treat. I turn my back for a second and she poops in the house.

Meanwhile, Future Leader is singing in his crib. That perks up Coondog's ears, and she starts barking in response. "Shhh!" She has no idea what "shh!" means. Now she's running around with a shoe.... Hold on....

Everything is a puppy-game to her. She has no conception of seriousness. Why should she?

Chaos. Just changed a diaper. Hoping to get him down for another 40 minutes or so. Not likely. Where's the dog?

Oh man. She's chewing a hole in my carptet.

So now, with the loss of my little morning Shangri-La, there's a big hole in my life. To be perfectly accurate, it's a missing hole -- the timeless hole I used to be able to jump through every morning. So yesterday I decided to start meditating again at the same time each day, come what may, at 4:00 PM. I'm going to make an appointment with myself -- which is actually an appointment with God. I find that if you meet at the same time and place each day, the space becomes "energized," like a sort of spiritual morphogenetc field.

Naturally, the same thing can happen around churches and other sacred places, but there's no reason at all why you can't do the same thing in your house. In fact, you must do so. You must have a room or corner of your house that you dedicate only to "higher things," so that when you're there, your mind already knows what to do. Eventually, you create a neural nouswork that interacts with the nonlocal field you're trying to access.

When I say "meditate," it's actually closer to prayer, or at the very least, trying to align yourself with an energy that surpasses yourself. For a number of years I tried various meditation "techniques," but without much success. For one thing, God is not something you access through a technique. A technique can be helpful, but you shouldn't confuse means with end.

I eventually evolved this technique where I repeat a mantra and try to focus above my head, above the crown chakra. As I inhale, I imagine that I am drawing this energy down the front of my body, and as I exhale, I imagine that it is traveling up the spine and back out the top of the head. At least for me, I find that this is effective in moving around various energy blockages, especially after a little yoga.

At the same time, I found it extremely helpful to employ what is in effect a mantra, although Christians may object to the term. For example, the Jesus prayer is in many ways ideal and is quite effective. On the inhale you silently say "Lord Jesus Christ" while imagining the force coming down, while on the exhale you say "have mercy on me" while offering the energy back upward. Naturally this cannot be done mechanically, but must be done with the heart.

I realize that some Orthodox will object to conflating the Jesus prayer with some kind of yoga, and it is true that this is not for everyone. But I believe we are dealing here with the "physics of spirit." There is a real energy and we can tap into it. It is actually the opposite of Kundalini yoga, in which one tries to rouse the energy at the base of the spine. Rather, the primary movement is the surrender to the higher energy which comes down, not up.

As I began practicing this method, I began to sense a subtle resonance with this spiritual energy, to such an extent that certain bodily movements would accompany it -- almost like a stringed instrument that will vibrate at the same frequency as a note from another instrument in its vicinity. Obviously, this energy is real. Countless believers have testified to its existence. Many people routinely feel it in church, which is one of the reasons people enjoy going to church, even if they are not consciously aware of it. It is very common for people to feel younger, lighter, more "flowing," and more energized when they leave church. This is why.

For example, in the past, I would occasionally attend services at the Vedanta temple in Hollywood. I wouldn't pay much attention to the sermon, which can often be sort of bland. Instead, I would simply "go within," concentrate above my head, and try to bring down the force. When this happens, my head usually spirals in a gentle clockwise direction. Always clockwise. I have no idea why. If I consciously try to do it in the other direction, it feels unnatural, sort of like I'm swimming upstream.

Like my mornings.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The White Buffalo Articulation and the Interstices of Being

I'm going to bypass preamble and just launch into the heart of my essay. That way it will be a few moments before you actually register that it's me, Will, speaking to you, not Bob, and you won't immediately bolt for the exit. That wouldn't do you any good anyway as Bob took time to coat the doors with a liquid thermosetting seal.

*****

In the summer following my senior year in high school, I decided that I'd like a summer job in a location where I knew nobody, where I would have my first real experience living apart from my family. I wasn't quite ready for total independence, however, so I my father obligingly secured a job for me at a small airport in Janesville, Wisconsin. Janesville was about an hour and a half's interstate drive from my home in Chicago, which enabled me to spend weekends at home.

I haven't visited Janesville in decades, so it might have changed since I spent the summer of my eighteenth year there. I strongly doubt it, though. Janesville was, probably still is, an archetypal American small town, and archetypes steadfastly make a point of remaining themselves. A one-boulevard, three stoplight, one movie theater community, Janesville was nestled like a robin's egg in the surrounding miles of Wisconsin farmland. Friendly people, of course, almost disturbingly so, particularly for a kid like me who was accustomed to a certain measure of edgy guardedness in social relations.

Well, let's be honest, I found Janesville to be "sleepy," a characteristic that I first found charming, even exotic. After a few weeks, however, the rows of growing corn at the edge of the airport's runways didn't quite give me the same *frisson*.

My job at the airport was "lineboy," the guy who refuels aircraft. Since this was a small-town airport, an informality prevailed, which meant I also swept the hanger daily, cleaned the washrooms, and ran out to get everybody a candy bar when they wanted one.

Well, during my tenure as lineboy, I managed not to forget to screw the gas-tank caps back onto the Cessnas, nor did I crash the 6-gear, multi-ton gasoline truck I grimly steered around the airport. I made some friends, even had a minor romance with a -- you guessed it -- local waitress. By summer's end, however, I was more than ready to put Janesville behind me. Yes, on some level, I appreciated the salt-of-the-earth virtues of small towns, but I couldn't escape the impression that burdens callow kids the world over: nothing ever happens here.

To my shame, I recall that this impression I had of bland landscape also extended to the people of Janesville. In my own callow eyes, they lacked the brio, the go-get-'em rhythm of my city and suburban friends. They seemed disturbingly *content* with their lot. Simple and uncomplicated, they were, with a touch of -- I couldn't help but draw the parallel, Wisconsin being the Land of Cows -- the bovine.

I once asked one of the local pilots if he ever drove into Chicago. His eyes popping open like a doll's, he exclaimed in horror, "Lord, no, that traffic terrifies me, I couldn't handle it, " -- and this from a guy who occasionally risked his life landing his Cessna at grand gala supermarket openings. Well, so be it, I thought. I couldn't account for what I regarded as their near-pathological avoidance of "where the action is," but I knew it wasn't for me. Watching the night lights of Janesville dwindling in my rear view mirror as I left the town for the last time, I thought, well, thank you, Janesville, for the sweet postcard memories, but I won't be returning because I've got a fast track to run, places to go, people to meet, excitement to be had, don't you know, and because nothing ever happens here.

Flash-forward several decades to a summer in 1994. To say that the arc of my life had by this time taken a series of unexpected turns would be very much the understatement, but that's a story for another time. I'm sitting at my kitchen table reading a newspaper when an item on page three immediately catches my eye. At this juncture in my life, it was the kind of story that fired up my imagination, caused my heart to beat a little faster: A white buffalo had been born.

As many of you no doubt know, the birth of the white buffalo is a signal event in American Indian prophecy and belief. I won't go into detail here, but the coming of the white buffalo is considered a sign that the birth of a new age is imminent. Now, I consider myself a Christian of the esoteric sort; I am open to prophecies from various spiritual traditions. If they issue from a source that I believe to be spiritually sound, I take them seriously. I took the birth of the white buffalo seriously. I felt a genuine sense of awe. My perception of what constituted a Big Deal had been considerably revised over the years, and now I understood this to be a spiritually historic Big Deal. So would thousands of others, including the Dalai Lama who sent a gift of a scarf to the buffalo.

Incidentally, the birthplace of the white buffalo was Janesville, Wisconsin. You know, nothing ever happens here.

One thing that I've observed about the nature of our spiritual progress is that we aren't always aware of what we know until we see it articulated in some manner. At that point, we experience the shock of recognition, and our self-awareness takes a quantum leap upward. It's like a graduation ceremony, the final integration of a particular lesson we have, in fact, already learned. (In this sense, we, as atoms in the Body of God, must already "know everything" -- however, we become aware of what we already know in stages, a slow progression.)

The white buffalo event was for me just such an articulation, a rather thundering one at that. Much of what I had learned through years of trial and trauma -- and yet until this moment had not been fully aware that I had learned -- came into focus. What better place than Janesville?

For it is the nature of the Spirit to hide in plain sight. That is, the Spirit avoids what men would find seductively intriguing. The Spirit avoids the "corridors of power." A man who would save the Republic -- perhaps save the very idea of Democracy itself -- emerging not from Massachusetts or New York State, but from the frontier wilds of Kentucky? Let's face it, the Spirit has a puckish sense of humor. If in 1960 someone had told you that a music was soon coming that would capture the world's imagination and even fundamentally change the world's culture, would you guess that music would be coming out of Liverpool, England?

Astronomers say that if you want to see a star clearly with the naked eye, it's best to look a little to the side of the star. Then the star comes into clear focus. I'm not sure if this applies here, but I do think it interesting.

Here's one of my own coinage: You're more likely to find a quarter on the sidewalk by *not* looking for it as you are by actually looking. I think this also probably applies to finding love. In either case, anxiety will be kept to a minimum.

There is a natural desire, of course, to go looking outside ourselves for the answers, for *ex*-citement. Ancient Rome with its bread and circuses must have been exciting. How were you going to keep them down on the farm in Gaul after they caught a glimpse of the coliseum torch light? Meanwhile, the Light of the World came gleaming out of the dust of Bethlehem, a flyblown one-donkey speck on the map -- and later rode into Jerusalem, not in steed-driven chariot, but on the back of a shaggy pack animal. That's what I call a good sense of humor.

Obviously, spiritual growth is marked by an adjustment to that which we register as being of transcedent importance. How is it, the secular Christian bashers like to ask, that the Roman and Jewish historians contemporary with Christ make no mention of him? Probably for the same reason William Manchester or Steven Ambrose didn't write about Padre Pio. These ragamuffins Christ and Pio just didn't ping the importance sonar. We might say they flew over the radar.

Bottom line: We tend to see is what is important to us. I'm not saying statecraft and politics isn't important. I'm saying that there's something far more important in this world of ours. It hides in plain sight, it manifests and expresses Itself through the medium of simplicity and humility. The natural eye is not drawn to it; the inner eye is. Without It's many willing hosts over the millennia, ie., the saints known and unknown, there would be no statecraft and politics on the earth, only a howling chaos.

I have these dreams where I'm borne back to Janesville on a whirlwind. I'm the age I am now, but everyone in Janesville is still the age they were when I was there long ago. They're all there in the hanger I used to sweep, everyone I knew or merely saw, the waitresses, the mechanics, the pilots, the farmers, the guys in the drug store, the clerks in the five and dime. I think I see the white buffalo behind them, moving in the shadows. I'm holding my head in my hands and asking for forgiveness. A voice -- maybe it's the waitress's -- says to me, "Aww honey, we always knew how scared and lonely you were, don't you worry about it."

I'm going to be relocating soon. I'm not going to tell you where, other than to say it's a known place, but *not that well known*. Why am I moving? Well, I lived in the city nearly all my life, and the truth is, *nothing ever happens here.*

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Unending War on Intellectual Poverty and Atavistic Progressivism

Regarding the transdimensional monument -- or monument to the transdimensional -- we spoke of yesterday, there is an imperceptible point that it necessarily shades off into the relative, or what Schuon called the "human margin." For example, yesterday Joseph posed a question about Catholic "just war doctrine" as it pertains to the liberation of Iraq. I don't really know much about this doctrine, but I am quite sure that it cannot be considered "absolute," and would instead fall along the human margin. In other words, there is nothing in revelation that explicitly addresses when a particular war is just, but certain divine ideas can be "extended" to try to encompass areas that are not directly addressed in scripture.

If you do not respect this distinction between the absolute and the relative -- between revelation and the human margin -- then you are likely to confuse the God-given and the manmade. To cite another obvious example, Catholic teachers down through the centuries have also had a lot of erroneous ideas about economics that have greatly hindered economic development in countries where they predominate.

Even now, Catholic majority countries generally trail Protestant countries economically because of this legacy of economic innumeracy. It wasn't that these were bad people. It's just that they didn't know anything about economics, but were trying to achieve a "just" economic system by drawing out certain implications of the Bible. At a certain point, many Catholic theologians became more leftist than Catholic, meaning that they were well beyond the human margin and into the "all too human," at best.

In general, religious thinkers have often expressed great hostility to capitalism, probably because of a perceived difficulty reconciling it with the virtues. Indeed, the engine of capitalism might appear to such a person to revolve around the free exercise of certain deadly sins. In 1697, Father Thomasin wrote that "those who lend at interest... think they are doing nothing against reason, against equity, and finally against divine law.... Yet, if no one acquired or possessed more than he needed for his maintenance and that of his family, there would be no destitute in the world at all."

It cannot be emphasized enough that theologians are not economists. This being the case, they generally embrace mankind's "default" economic setting, which is a kind of crude communism that I believe is programmed into our genes. It is precisely this leftist genetic programming that we must transcend in order to facilitate a rational economy that creates and sustains the conditions that gradually materially elevate everyone. Or, to turn it around, if we had attempted to follow these religious thinkers' ideas of "just economic doctrine," we'd all still be living in the Dark Ages. But that never stops the left from trying. Again, "progressivism" is an atavistic tendency lodged deep within our genetic endowment -- which is why it is so difficult to eliminate it from the human "meme pool," since it "feels right" to many people, despite being so demonstrably destructive and dysfunctional.

Charles Davenant, an English political economist, wrote in 1699 that "Trade, without a doubt, is in its nature a pernicious thing; it brings in that wealth that introduces luxury; it gives rise to fraud and avarice, and extinguishes virtue and simplicity in manners; it depraves a people, and makes way for that corruption which never fails to end in slavery...." Here again, this could be Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or some other contemporary secular leftist speaking.

According to Jerry Muller, author of a fascinating book entitled The Mind and the Market (from which the quotes above and below were taken), "there was little room for commerce and the pursuit of gain in the portrait of the good society conveyed by the traditions of classical Greece and of Christianity, traditions that continued to influence intellectual life through the eighteenth century and beyond." But this approach to economics utterly backfired and only created more scarcity and therefore ceaseless war and plunder.

That is, "classic" economic theory, if that's what we want to call it, was predicated on the idea that there was a fixed amount of wealth in the world. Indeed, this is probably an extrapolation -- again, at the human margin -- of the belief that God created the world once and for all. The idea of unlimited economic growth probably clashed with the unconscious notion of a timeless and unevolving world given to us by a creator. Therefore, economic development was hindered by all sorts of dysfunctional ideas, such as a fixed "just price."

One of the sources of hostility to Jews is that they were often merchants, since they were forbidden to engage in most trades. To the economically innumerate, they cannot understand the merchant's role in buying and selling goods at a profit, since the "profit" seems to reflect no added value. Thus, today we still see the enduring hostility to profits, whether it is Walmart, or oil companies, or pharmaceutical companies, or CEOs. Leftists cannot understand that in a dynamic economy, one person's gain is not another person's loss. It is reminiscent of the Scholastic axiom that "money does not beget money." Indeed, according to Muller, "in early medieval iconography, money was often connected with excrement, and portrayed as filthy and disgusting" -- a tip-off to the psychologically primitive roots of the left's hostility to wealth. Similarly, merchants were regarded with great suspicion and often literally depicted as blood-sucking parasites, unlike "honest" people who worked with their hands and lived off the land.

Even today, virtually anyone on the left has difficulty wrapping his mind around the idea that there is no such thing as a "just price." Rather, there is only the price someone is willing to pay. If you try to artificially maintain a price, whether rent control or a "living wage," you will simply introduce distortions into the marketplace which will ripple outward and cause further distortions -- inflation, scarcity, inefficiency, etc.

Thus -- amazingly -- at the Democrat debate the other night, they were actually taking seriously questions about, for example, what to do about "the price of gasoline." This demonstrates such a profound degree of economic ignorance in both questioner and candidates, that it is more than a little frightening to contemplate. After all, should the government also subsidize and reimburse the oil companies for all those years they didn't turn a profit? Likewise, is college really too expensive because there isn't enough government subsidizing of it, or is there already way too much subsidizing of it? Or is it that there are simply too many people in college who have no business being there?

Regarding the default leftism of the human species, this might be the reason why leftism merges so readily with the unleashing of the most base instincts of mankind, including unrestrained violence. In other words, since the leftist is unable to evolve above his constitutional envy, he easily confuses "morality" and violence, in that any violence expressed for the purposes of achieving his socialist ideal is morally justified. Why else would socialist governments ranging from Hitler Germany to the Soviet Union to communist China be so simultaneously idealistic and sadistic? On the other hand, the United States and Great Britain (and other English speaking peoples), which have traditionally had the most liberal economies, have also produced the most decent and benign societies.

Since the roots of leftism may be traced to our genes, it is not surprising that the earliest economic thinking is essentially leftist. Socrates said that "The more men value money-making, the less they value virtue." And in the ancient Greek city-states, "virtue meant devotion to the well-being of the city," or to the collective -- absolutely no different than Hillary Clinton's promise to undo the "on your own" Republican society and replace it with her primitive and ultimately self-centered leftism. That is,

"The Democratic Party, the exit polls tell us, is the home of single, secular people. They are people who are on their own physically, as they may have a commitment problem where people of the opposite sex are concerned. They are, as the book by Robert D. Putnam says, Bowling Alone. And they are on their own spiritually, not belonging to any community of faith. Not surprisingly they want government to fill the gaps in their lives and make up for the lack of a safety net that a family or a church community provides. In short, they want other people to pay for their safety net. As a good Democratic politician, Senator Clinton understands and encourages this.

"The Republican Party, the exit polls tell us, is the home of religious, married people with children. They belong to families and churches, living their lives as 'we're all in it together' people. In addition, of course, those Republicans who are Christians believe in a God that loves them and wants them to love Him right back. How together is that? And religious people, Arthur C. Brooks tells us in Who Really Cares?, are more generous. They give more than secular people. When you give more, you get more, the philosophers tell us."

Thus, just as the "peace movement" will inevitably lead to more war, leftist economic principles ineluctably lead to more scarcity, want, and narrow-minded selfishness (not to be confused with self-interest), and therefore, a massive nanny state to fulfill the needs they artificially engender.

Leftist professors also reflect this primitive fetish surrounding the pursuit of wealth. As far back as Aristotle, it was felt that it was "desirable to be rich, but morally hazardous to engage in the active pursuit of riches through trade": "In the city that is most finely governed, the citizens should not live a vulgar or a merchant's way of life, for this sort of way of life is is ignoble and contrary to virtue." The leftist professor, as much as anyone, enjoys a kind of slack-filled fantasy existence that is only made possible because of the productive activities of others, and yet, he belittles them and bites the handouts that tenure him.

Just once, I wish that some boneheaded MSM lightweight such as Wolf Blizer, Chris Matthews, or Keith Olbermann, would ask one of these Democrat candidates, "40 years, trillion of dollars, and millions of damaged lives later, and do any of you have an exit strategy for the War on Poverty?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Monuments to Stupidity and Wisdom

The Absolute necessarily shades off into the relative, but at a point that is more or less impossible to identify precisely. Thus, it is difficult to say exactly where orthodoxy turns into heresy, morality turns into immorality, or a true American turns into an anti-American. But in each case, people who fall into the latter categories use the existence of this continuum to argue that the former are illusions and that "all is relative." In turn, this abolishes the idea of sin, since they imagine that they have eliminated any objective standard.

This is a hopelessly unsophisticated ontology, for it assumes that higher realms are mathematical in their precision. In reality, they are not so much like mathematical equations as they are like, say, magnificent granite monuments. The greatest theologians are somewhat like painters who can convey the image of this monument with clarity and certainty, but it is nevertheless an image and not the thing-in-itself.

This is what I meant the other day when I said that revelation is the closest we can come to an objective representation of O. It is like an image of the monument, given by the monument itself. But each person's angle on the monument is necessarily going to be different. If you put thousands of people with cameras at the base of the Matterhorn, the photos are all going to be slightly different -- in other words, there will be the illusion of diversity despite the fact that there is only one Matterhorn. With respect to itself, it is not relative but absolute. Our view of the Absolute is necessarily relative, but only relatively so -- it is "relatively absolute." There is no such thing as absolute relativity.

A photograph is not just a literal translation but a transformation, as is perception itself. To perceive something is to transform an object in such a way that certain abstract coordinates and relationships are preserved, while others are distorted. If you consider the modern art of the early 20th century, for example, artists were attempting to stretch the coordinates between object and image in creative new ways. One could say that James Joyce did the same with language. Instead of trying to use it like a photograph to map reality in a 1:1 manner (which is impossible anyway), he used language in a new "holographic" way, so that it in turn mirrored the hyperdimensional nature of consciousness itself. He was actually using language to alter consciousness in such a way that a new view of reality emerged.

For example, let's take the first sentence of Finnegans Wake, since I happen to know it by heart:

rivverun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

At first blush, this sentence is "nonsense," as it appears to be about "nothing." In other words, it is difficult to apprehend the "object," so to speak, of which this sentence is supposed to be a representation.

Nevertheless, like the object scripture attempts to describe, this sentence is an adequation to a hyperdimensional reality that transcends the senses. This reality is called "history," which in turn is thoroghly entangled with consciousness itself -- the same consciousness that is both the subject and the object of history. For Joyce, history was literally like a dream (or nightmare), in the sense that there is the Dreamer and the dream, but in the end, the two must be one and the same.

Therefore, it is very difficult -- impossible really -- to actually write "straight (or what Joyce called 'wideawake and cutandry') history" and imagine that the historian is not actually its dreamer. We are all in this thing called "history." History surely exists. And yet, we could no more objectively and exhaustively describe it than we could objectively describe the content of a dream. Rather, we can only take our photographs of the Matterhorn.

For one thing, where is the line between the dreamer who dreams the dream and the one who experiences it? In this regard, a dream is very much like a spider's web, which the spider spins out of its own substance and then proceeds to inhabit. Human beings are no different, only on a more abstract plane. Do you really think that the web a leftist spins out of his psychic substance and then inhabits is anything like your web? Or an atheist? Or an Islamist? All of these, in their own way, are completely entangled in a web that they themselves create, become entangled in, and take for reality.

How to extricate oneself from the psychic webs we create? "History," wrote Joyce, "is the nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." When I watched the Democrat debate the other evening, I could see how all of the candidates wear offering their "prescription for a nightmare." The nature of leftism prevents the one and only true cure, which is to say, "just wake up." No. Leftism is the philosophy of creating newer and stronger soporifics in order to keep man asleep. In so doing, it aggravates the symptoms it is supposedly treating, and simply makes the nightmare worse. Plus, people get hooked on leftist prescraptions, and require more and more of them in order to stay asleep, just like an addict.

Furthermore, just as in a mental patient, the more unpleasant reality impinges, the more denial is necessary. Terrorists want to blow up JFK? It's Bush's fault. Zzzzzz. We now see that some one third of Democrats have created a nightmare in which the United States government is actually responsible for 9-11. As it stands, it is probably fair to say that 90% of Democrats believe that the Iraq war was not waged for the reasons so stated by the administration, but for some sinister ulterior purpose that no sane person has yet been able to describe.

I am currently reading an outstanding book entitled A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which attempts to be a corrective to all of the noxious deconstruction that really got under way in the 1960s. Back then they called it "revisionist history," which sounds innocent enough but which in reality was highly agenda driven, and attempted to rewrite history in such a way that the English speaking peoples were the bad guys rather than the (literally and repeatedly) saviors of history.

It is interesting how easy it is to trace the roots of today's crazy leftists in a straight line back to their academonic source. For once history is deconstructed, it is very difficult to put it back together again. Thus, the left is operating in an upside down world first made possible by the early revisionists who, among other things, argued that America's founders were just a bunch of greedy white males protecting their economic interests, or that capitalism is pure exploitation instead of an extraordinary liberator of human potential, or that the colonized did not benefit from colonialism, or that America was at fault in the Cold War, or that Roosevelt's economic policies helped rather than aggravated and prolonged the great depression, or that poverty causes crime, or that it was wrong to drop the atom bomb on imperial Japan. These and similar ideas proliferated exactly like a toxin, infecting all of the academic rivers and then flowing downhill into the streams of journalism and politics. When some nutty academic sneezes, rank and file Democrats cognitively die off in droves.

What is so striking about the book is how America has remained constant, while the left has changed so dramatically -- and gained so much cultural power. For example, there is absolutely no moral difference -- none whatsoever -- between the way Roosevelt responded to the fascist threat of his day and the way President Bush is responding the fascist threat of our day. The only difference is that America's motivations have been so undermined by the left, that it is as if we are dealing with two entirely different countries. But when did the "good" America of Roosevelt and the "greatest generation" transmogrify into the evil America of President Bush? It never did. Again, it is exactly the same profoundly decent country. Only the left has changed.

Actually, one other thing that has changed -- for the worse -- is how utterly ruthless men such as Churchill and Roosevelt were in pursuit of their war aims. President Bush doesn't even come close (although one senses that Giuliani could resurrect a bit of this higher ruthlessness). I don't have time to provide examples, but suffice it to say that it boggles the mind how completely ahistorical the left is in this regard. Now, because of the influence of the left, it is almost impossible for us to be as ruthless as we need to be in order to prevail in the struggle against our enemies -- who do not see our lack of ruthlessness as civility but weakness and lack of resolve. Which it is -- that and self-hatred.

If it had come out in 1943 that some German or Japanese soldiers had been mistreated in an American prison camp, I cannot believe that any American would have wasted two seconds thinking about it. So. What. Whatever we did could never approach the barbarity of the Germans, Japanese, and Soviets. And besides, context is everything. There is no moral equivalence whatsover between what America and her enemies do, any more than there is an equivalence between the police and criminals just because they both shoot people.

It is obscene to call waterboarding a terrorist to obtain information that will save innocent lives torture. Absolutely morally obscene. To call Gitmo a "gulag" represents a kind of moral stupidity that is satanic in its implications. One of the most horrific consequences of leftist thought insinuating itself into our discourse it that it prevents one from speaking simple moral truths. It undermines everything -- not just morality, but even the ability to speak about morality. I believe this is because, following Descartes, it elevates our capacity to doubt to the highest wisdom. Thus, it ends up with cynicism as the highest ideal: a philosophy of stupidity, including moral stupidity.

Returning to our original metaphor of the monument and the mountain. The leftist notices the unavoidable fact that different people have different views of the monument. Therefore, the monument doesn't objectively exist. Furthermore, anyone's view of it is just as good or bad as anyone else's. As such, Truth is abolished and raw power rushes in to fill the void. The leftist always speaks power to Truth. Always.

Which is why I do not waste a moment arguing with leftists, humanists, atheists, or radical secularists. Rather, every day, I simply do my best to describe the monument before me as accurately as possible, so that others might begin to apprehend its outlines and contours equally vividly and gain strength from that. In short, I am not advancing an argument but presenting a vision of what I see (which the leftist also does, only while asleep, i.e., while dreaming). It is a single object, but there are many views of it. I guess this would be #640 so far. Tune in tomorrow for #641. Or possibly #2 from our #2, Will (a beautiful pneumagraph that I have already seen, by the way), depending on various exigencies that temporarily obscure my view.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Change, Growth, and Metamorphosis

Change is just change, a horizontal shuffling from one arrangement to another. Growth is teleological change along a developmental vector, while metamorphosis is transformation from one thing to another -- caterpultering your sleeping buddhafly out of its christallus, so to speak.

As Ken Wilber has written, mere change is like rearranging the furniture on the floor of a building, or "translation." But real growth is analogous to taking the eschatolator to the next floor, which I believe he calls transformation. But that is really more like a transition. Metamorphosis is real transformation, something like retrofitting the entire building -- or perhaps like putting wings on it and turning it into an airplane.

Obviously, it is not possible to avoid change. However, we can only know change in relation to changelessness, or some static benchmark. The Buddha taught that resistance to change -- or attachment to one particular phase of it -- was a primary source of suffering. And yet, to achieve the awakened state he describes, one must go through some rather profound changes. As Cardinal Newman put it, "to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." We might call this kind of challenging directional change sophering.

"To be perfect" is an interesting way of putting it, for it implies that change for human beings has a definite deustination or final cause. I believe one aspect of grace is the "lure" of this final causation, which literally pulls us in our ding[h]y wake toward our higher self. In other words, this developmental energy cannot merely be a "push" from behind, as it were, or it wouldn't have any direction. In that case, we'd all be like ten week-old Great Dane puppies or two year old boys, constantly dissipating energy that doesn't really go anywhere and is frankly a little annoying at times. [A little pupdate -- I have now finished the post and am in the backyard, where I see that Future Leader and Coondog are digging a hole in the dirt together; hard to say who is dirtier -- ed.]

Or we might say that mere change is a result of deterministic causation, like billiard balls knocking each other around. It cannot result in something truly new, just something that was implicit in the past. But true growth is "top down," teleonomic causation. Instead of present-to-future, it somehow operates in a whole-to-part, future-to-present manner.

Just as one aspect of grace is this future-to-present causation, prayer is the effort (or perhaps non-effort is more like it) to align ourselves with these subtle cosmic winds. And they are subtle, at least at first. However, I think you'll agree that as you move closer to your destiny, it becomes a less subtle and more "present" -- though still distant -- reality. As you leave the orbit of the earth, you are eventually drawn into the attractor of the sun. In fact, when it comes right down to it, that's pretty much your choice: the mundane vs. the celestial.

This turning toward the celestial sun represents "metanoia," true repentence, or preparing yourself to be changed (for in metamorphic change, you cannot change atoll without first ceasing to be an I-land). The first step of the spiritual path -- and the last step, which is simply the first step repeated endlessly -- is "turning around" and phasing your unKnown future.

Again, this is nothing like mere change, which is just endless turning, spinning, and rolling through the hay like a -- speaking of puppies and children -- puppy child, fun though that may be, especially if it's with Amoreena over at the diner (nudge nudge). Now that I think about it, there are times that I am gnostalgic for that corefree and flateral existence, but when I was actually in it, was I really happy or philfulled, or just fallfailed? Or was I just ec-statically spinning around to conceal the fact that I was merely drifting -- down or out, anywhere but up?

Because the True Growth is a movement in and up, which is the only place where "wholeness" can abide -- which literally means "await." Whatever or whoever we are meant to be patiently awaits our arrival there. But where is it when it is not here? Put another way, who am I when I am not me?

I suppose I can handle that one, Petey. Let's see. I was something external, something that was a product of its environment. Any direction I thought I possessed had been imposed from the outside, even if I had internalized it and therefore thought I had come up with it on my own. Not until this drama had played itself out and exhausted all its possibilities was "turning around" possible. For many, it requires that they reach a state of "moral bankruptcy" to reach this stage, or launch pad. Fortunately, that was not the case with me. Nor, fortunately, did I ever do anything that fundamentally damaged my soul, and from which I could not recover in this life.

But enough about rising on the schlepping stoners of our dead selves. Obviously, our society venerates change, but not growth and certainly not metamorphosis. In fact, there is a kind of implicit ban on growth (not just economic), which is the secret of the Democrat party in general and the progressive movement in particular. Neither of them has the slightest interest in making better humans. Rather, they want to skip that little muddled man and create the perfect society.

But you cannot accomplish that by patronizing (literally) man's lower self. As Schuon so eloquently describes it, sircular humanism "decapitates man: wishing to make of him an animal which is perfect, it succeeds in turning him into a perfect animal." Indeed, this must be so if there is no awareness of the proper end of man as such. Leftism can only result in making man more of what he already is instead of what he was meant to me -- human, only worse.

For example, to cite just one disgusting example (TW: Brian), thanks to progressives, it is now going to be against the law in California to teach children about the proper end of human sexuality. Rather, as per a recent senate bill -- which passed along straight (so to speak) party lines, 23 Democrats for, 13 Republicans against -- teachers and textbooks cannot depict transvestites, transexuals, or any other sexual deviant in a negative light in any public school textbook. Instead, positive portrayal of transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles will be mandated upon all children, beginning in kindergarten.

Why a public school textbook would ever deal with sexual perversions is beyond me, but now I suppose you can't even call them "perversions." Unlike any other bodily function, sexuality has no proper end, no healthy manner of expression. We might as well teach that high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are all normal as well. After all, who said that one's fasting blood sugar should be below 105? Isn't that just an arbitrary number? I'm being oppressed! What white European male said that diastolic blood pressure should be below 80, or cholesterol below 200? Those numbers are difficult to achieve for some black folks, who tend to have higher blood pressure and cholesterol. What's normal for whites isn't normal for everyone. It isn't fair!

This is why a classical liberal is not a strict libertarian and certainly not a leftist. As we all know, the leftist is a totolerantarian, as reflected in the above legislation which forces people to accept the abnormal as normal -- its project is nothing less than the abolition of the human archetype, and with it, the human being. Why? Why is it so important for leftists to confuse children about sexuality? Is it just a reflection of their own confusion, or is there something more cosmically sinister going on?

Interesting that all of last night's Democrat condidates promised to find a special role in their administration for Bill Clinton, who is aptly described by Harvey Mansfield as "the envy of vulgar men." To put it another way, he is an archetypal lower whorizontal man who has never mastered, much less transcended, himself, so he is a perfect symbol for the left -- vain, greedy, calculating, unmanly, self-serving, governed by his appetites, indifferent to truth, and articulate and intelligent in ways that are simultaneously vacuous and portentous.

Anyway, since the postmodern world has successfully taken the reeking bull to man's archetypal nature, something must rush in to fill the void. Thus, as described by Stanley Jaki, modern man is "addicted to change. He needs fresh forms of novelties to satisfy that addiction. Nothing satisfies him unless he finds it exciting, which merely subjects him to change." In short, since modern man turns the cosmos upside down, horizontal change replaces vertical metamorphosis as the highest value. It is nothing less than the valorization of man's fall, which rapidly creates conditions in which everything becomes a thrilling race to the bottom to determine who is highest, since man cannot stand still. If he is not transcending himself, then he will sink beneath himself. Them's the rules. I didn't make 'em up.

Hey now, what a beautiful example in the new (but not merely novel) New Criterion, which includes a couple of priceless quotes:

It is now that we begin to encounter the fevered quest for novelty at any price, it is now that we see insincere and superficial cynicism and deliberate conscious bluff; we meet, in a word, the calculated exploitation of this art as a means of destroying all order. The mercenary swindle multiplies a hundredfold, as does the deceit of men themselves deceived and the brazen self-portraiture of vileness. --Hans Sedlmayr, Art in Crisis

Some of what she said was technical, and you would have had to be a welder to appreciate it; the rest was aesthetic or generally philosophical, and to appreciate it you would have had to be an imbecile.
--Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution

(See also here for more Roger Kimball.)

Hmm, I'm getting that eery foreboding that chaos is about to strike in the Gagdad household and that unwanted change -- including of a diaper -- is about to be forced upon me. Therefore, I will have to take up this strand when the now is available again tomorrow morning and I can dilate time in the usual "Raccoon way."

Oh, and don't forget -- speaking of change, Ben could use a little right about now. You can coontribute on his website.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Deep Change

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'll be posting under adverse circumstances for the foreseeable future. Frankly, I don't know how I've made it this far, because the circumstances have been pretty adverse ever since I started doing this, what with a newborn in the house. Now with the puppy, it's crazy. I won't go into all the details, because it would be too long and boring.

Yesterday Will wrote about change -- in particular, the biggest change of all, death. Actually, I suppose death would have to be tied with birth. And maybe the birth of your first child at 49. And then maybe throw a great dane puppy into the mix. Add a little type I diabetes that is diagnosed the same month your son is conceived....

By the way, thank you Will for bobstituting yesterday. Will actually proposed some other ideas for how I might take the day off as needed. For example -- I think this would be interesting -- someone could interview me. Or, one Raccoon could interview another Raccoon of his or her choice in some depth. I personally think that would be quite interesting. For example, imagine, say, Dilys interviewing Will, or vice versa.... I think I'd pay for that....

One reason I don't generally just post an oldie is that there is something about producing a post out of thin air that makes it feel as if it's connected to the cosmic weather pattern of the moment, even if the topic of the post has nothing explicitly to do with current events. Hard to explain, but there's a certain kind of energy behind or under or around it. Perhaps it's like how some wine experts can supposedly tell what year a wine was produced and what part of the country the grapes came from. Maybe someone with extremely advanced coonscent could smell one of my posts and name the day it was hatched.

There are two things I wanted to write about, but I have no idea if all hell will break loose around here before I can get into them in any depth. So I'll just start, and see how far we can get.

At the moment, I only have two words that kept rattling around my brain after reading Will's post yesterday. One of them was depth. The other was change. We take both of these words for granted, in a classic case of what Bion called "saturation." That is, we don't actually have any idea what these words really mean, but if we keep using a word long enough, then we convince ourselves that we do.

It's very much like money in that way. Obviously we use money all the time, but who ever stops to think about what it actually is? As soon as you do think about it, it becomes a little absurd. Look at a dollar. What is that? Yes, it symbolizes something, but what? And since it symbolizes something, can I exchange it for what it symbolizes -- for the reality underneath the symbol? No, not since the gold standard was abolished. Even then, what is a piece of gold, anyway? Ultimately, I suppose we could say a dollar is like a little ladle with which we can dip into a vast ocean called "wealth." Whatever that is.

In my book, I wrote about how this problem is especially pertinent when we discuss God and religion. But then again, probably no more problematic than when we discuss philosophy, or relationships, or art, or anything that is both real and above the material plane. Frankly, it's amazing that we can communicate at all, especially when we are talking about highly abstract and sense-distant subjects. With regard to spirituality, the idea is to be able to cash in religious words for the experience they symbolize or "store," not to get hung up on the abstract symbol. A symbol is a bridge between one domain and another.

Returning to the poor cognitively diminished atheists and their complaint that I literally make no sense. This is actually quite fascinating, because what they are actually saying -- obviously -- is "I don't understand you." But instead of trying to do so, they childishly foreclose the transitional space in which such understanding could occur by insisting that there is no understanding to be had. This solves their problem, but only in a spurious way that makes growth an impossibility.

This is a fine example of Bion's oft-repeated point that the answer is the disease that kills curioisity (and obviously, many religious people are as bad as atheists in this regard -- they are simply mirror images of each other). This concept is central to psychoanalysis, although different analysts understand it in different ways. But all analysts are familiar with the fact that ninety percent of the battle in therapy is creating the conditions under which understanding, change and growth may take place. You could tell the patient many important things on their very first session, but they would be of no use to them. And if you used highly technical clinical language, they'd say -- just like the atheist -- that you make no sense at all and never come back (except the atheists keep coming back).

As always, "self-satisfaction" and "growth" are inversely related. A rock-bottom prerequisite for gaining anything from therapy is the understanding that, in the deepest sense, you are and always will be an irreducible mystery to yourself (I believe this is because we are created and not the creator of ourselves, but that's the topic for another post). The people who know themselves the least are generally the ones who don't even think about it. But no amount of psychotherapy will ever result in absolute knowledge of the self, the cosmic interior.

Therapy actually aims at two rather different and not necessarily related ends, one "negative," one "positive." In fact, as you grow in therapy, one part of yourself should become less mysterious, while another part becomes even more mysterious.

It reminds me of one of the last works of fiction I read some 20 years ago, called "Little Big." I don't remember anything else about it except that it proposed an ontology that consisted of a series of concentric circles. The purpose of life is to journey closer to the center. But unlike a series of euclidean circles, which become smaller as you approach the center, these circles become wider and more expansive until you reach the center, which is infinite -- furthermore, it is the infinite ground of all the surrounding spaces -- or "realms," "principalities," "domains," etc.

That is not an imaginary world. Rather, it is this world.

Anyway, the "negative" aspect of psychoanalysis involves understanding and transcending those aspects of the self that cause one to be "stuck," so to speak -- which interfere with growth (another word that is fraught with implications). These often fall under the heading of "mind parasites" as outlined in my book. Especially during our first few years of life, we internalize various things from the (largely) parental environment that become "hardwired" in, since our brain is developing at the same time these experiences are occurring. Therefore, more than at any other age, experiences are converted to "background objects" (or subjective alter egos) that are etched into our neurology.

Freud's classic description of the purpose of psychoanalysis still holds, which is to work, love, and play. To the extent that your mind parasites are limiting you, it is likely to manifest in one of these areas: the ability to be productive in a meaningful and pro-social manner; the ability to find fulfillment in enduring intimate relationships; and the ability to be freely spontaneous and creative. Besides rhythm, who could ask for anything more?

The second aspect of therapy is more "positive," and in my opinion -- and the opinion of Bion, at least implicitly -- verges on the religious and the mystical. For it has to do with maintaining a harmonious dialectic between the two utterly different modes of being that constitute the human subject. Again, different psychoanalysts use different words to describe these different parts: you could say ego and unconscious; or like the Jungians, ego and Self; or Being and knowing; or symmetrical and asymmetrical consciousness; or the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream and the one who is involved in it.

Following Bion, I simply chose to use the abstract symbol O for the ultimate unknowable reality underlying both the internal and external world. You might think of it as an existential "place marker," in that it signifies something that obviously exists -- must exist -- but which we can never, ever contain, describe, or completely circumnavelgaze. This is the inexhaustible ground of existence, which is not a riddle to be solved but a mystery to be played with and enjoyed. It tosses up various ideologies and philosophies -- various -isms and wasms -- out of its depths, and, like the ocean, washes them all aside with the passage of time. Today's cutting edge philosophy will be swept away in the cosmic tide, just like all its predecessors -- unless the philosophy specifically begins with O as its ultimate ground and final term.

Which is one reason why proper theism is so much more infinitely deep than atheism. If one of our atheist friends were here, I might like to ask him: do you consider atheism deep? Never mind true or false, but deep. If he says no, then he is dismissed. We have made our point about their radical disconnect from O for the purposes of assuaging cognitive and existential anxiety.

But supposing he says, "yes. To me, atheism is very deep stuff, protean in its implications, so deep I can hardly stand it!" The first thing I would want to do is define our terms. For what does the atheist mean by "deep?" Is this a "fact," an objective thing that can be located in the external world? And is there in fact any correlation between "deep" and "true?"

I don't mean for this to sound grandiose (for one thing, anyone can do it), but often I get into a sort of "prophetic" or "oracular" mode, in which Proclamations just come to me with a kind of certainty. Sometimes I don't even understand them myself at first, but I've come to trust the process. I'm not saying that my "prophecies" are always true -- that's for others to decide anyway. But what I'm saying is that this is an example of a kind of knowing that far exceeds what my little ego is capable of. Clearly, if I am right, it is simply what I call in the book O-->(k) -- or, as alluded to above, a product of the dynamic reconciliation of our little local self and our BIG NONLOCAL SELF. Living at the shoreline between these two diverse modes of being is where it all happens, baby. It is where I always try to be. Frankly, everything else is a slightly wearisome distraction at this point in my life.

Anyway, a phrase might pop into my head that feels very "certain" -- or is endowed with the "spirit of certainty," so to speak -- even though it's not any kind of emprical or mathematical certainty, like 2 + 2 = 4. For example, I -- or it -- might declare, "soul is the dimension of depth in all things."

Hmm. Okay. Nice platitude. Have you considered writing greeting cards? But what does it mean? Obviously it cannot be proven in the usual way. Should we even take it seriously? Or just put the card back in the rack?

Yes, I think the former, because this petrified bobservation is full of implicit meaning that cannot be explained in any other way.

Damn, baby is stirring. Totally breaks the mood. Where did O go?

I wanted to make a point about revelation in the context we have been discussing. Clearly, the atheist cannot know -- experientially, I mean -- what it means to dwell in revelation, to unceasingly meditate upon it in such a way that it generates a kind of knowledge that percolates up from deep within the self. How and why does this happen?

Because, in my opinion, revelation is as close as we can get to an "objectification of O." I realize that some Christians are uncomfortable with this, but I do not reduce revelation solely to the Bible or to Christ -- the latter being another objectification of O, by the way. I won't get into the other revelations that I consider divinely authorized objectifications of O, but that's not important anyway. The point is to engage in the ceaselessly generative process of interior engagement with the sacred forms of revelation -- which we "light up" from within, and which in turn light us from within. The purpose is to change us. In depth. In turn, this "deep change" is sufficient proof of the reality of God. Whatever that is.